'Slavery was abhorrent' says Prince William in rare remarks during Jamaica speech

"The appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history," Prince William says during a visit to Jamaica

Prince William has condemned Britain’s role in slavery as the future king addressed an audience in Jamaica – a country where he has faced protests in recent days over the issue. 

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were at an evening reception on the last night of their visit to Jamaica on behalf of the Queen.

William called the slave trade “abhorrent” and expressed what he called his “profound sorrow”.

But he stopped short of addressing the accusation that his own ancestors has benefitted from slavery.

ITV News Royal Editor Chris Ship rounds up the final day of Royal engagements in Jamaica

With Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness looking on, the Duke associated himself with words Prince Charles had given just last year.

“I strongly agree with my father, the Prince of Wales, who said in Barbados last year, that the appalling atrocity of slavery forever stains our history."

William said: “I want to express my profound sorrow. Slavery was abhorrent. And it should never have happened.”

Slaves were brought to this former British colony, mostly from West Africa and protests in recent days had called for Prince William himself to apologise on behalf of the British Crown.

Jamaica was a British colony from 1655 and slavery was not abolished until 1834.

There was silence in the room as William delivered his words.

The Duke went on: “While the pain runs deep, Jamaica continues to forge its future with determination, courage and fortitude.”

Acknowledging the pain and suffering during the slave trade was the minimum that protestors had wanted to see.

In recent days, some of them have been demanding an apology from William and an agreement to pay compensation for the ills of the past.

Others wanted explicit references to the way British Monarchs had benefitted from slavery.

The Duke’s speech was made in the ballroom of the Governor-General’s official house in Kingston.

His grandmother looked down from her portrait high above his head –checking if things were going to plan.

But she might not be head of state of Jamaica for much longer.`

The Prime Minister Andrew Holness told William and Kate earlier on Wednesday that the lively debate they had experienced should lead to Jamaica becoming a republic – just as Barbados did last year.

Mr Holness said: “we are moving on and we intend to attain, in short order, our developing goals and to fulfil our true ambitions… as an independent, developed, prosperous country.”

The words took royal aides by surprise as they had not been warned about them in advance.

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Jamaica needs both houses in Parliament to agree to a referendum on whether to keep the Queen as Head of State.

Ever since 1962 when Jamaica gained its independence, it decided that the new nation should have the British Sovereign as its head.

So there are more hurdles to overcome – but it does seem that Jamaica is on the way to severely its ties with former colonial master.